Monday, March 28, 2011

Eating in Asheville, NC

This weekend we packed our bags and drove down to Asheville, NC.  It's a good thing my boyfriend loves road trips, because my seasonal allergies and allergy medicine left me about as responsive as a sloth on the drive down.  We chose the mountain drive, heading first towards Shenandoah and then south until we crossed through Tennessee before reaching North Carolina.  We saw miles of farmland, cows, horses and mountains.  It was super peaceful and scenic.
Asheville's a beautiful and interesting area.  Nestled in the mountains, there's a strong arts community located in the area. You get the feeling that people interested in getting back to nature would find their niche easily here.  My boyfriend had described it as having an "aging hippie" vibe, which I could see, but it's developing into much more than that, partially due to recognitions from Frommer's, AARP and Self magazine that the area is one of the best places to "reinvent your life" and "Happiest City for Women".  I had done some cursory research on the food scene and discovered the area was known for locally-sourced, vegetarian-friendly New South cooking. 
I love Southern cooking, but have always wished for more delicious meatless options.  Asheville is an amazing food-lover's destination, with a little bit for everyone.  We started off with dinner at Tupelo Honey Cafe on a cold and rainy night.  It's not a large restaurant, but they did have a little waiting area in the back, which I felt was a nice touch.  The menu was a list of so many wonderful options, it was truly difficult to decide what to try.  My boyfriend sagely suggested I order things that would be difficult to find back home.  He's a wise man.
 Biscuits with tupelo honey and house-made blackberry preserves.  Swoon.
My friend V said that tupelo honey was pretty special, and she's right.  It's produced from White Ogeechee Tupelo and has a distinctive flavor.
 Honey-Chipotle wings with bleu cheese dressing $8.50. 
 Fried Green Tomatoes with goat-cheese grits $6.95. 
The crunch of the cornmeal was fantastic.
 Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin with chorizo, goat cheese grits, salsa verde pinto beans $19.95.
Smokey flavors, with the pork cooked medium, and intense chorizo sausage. 
 Shrimp and Grits with a spicy red pepper sauce $15.45. 
Luscious grits, the sauce had a nice spice, and the flavors were nicely melded together.
We love breakfast and brunch.  Next up was Early Girl Eatery. The cafe is located close to Tupelo Honey on Wall Street, a narrow road that reminded us of Diagon Alley from Harry Potter books.  The area is super quaint, and ridiculously hard to find parking.  We circled and circled, until we found a spot over on Battery Lane.  There was a 30 minute wait when we arrived, so we went for a walk around the neighborhood.  It's definitely worth the wait.
 Early Girl Benny $7.95.
Grit cakes topped with spinach, poached eggs, tomato gravy and avocado and choice of bread.  A little honey and preserves would have made the biscuit spectacular, but the butter was nice.  The tomato gravy had a lovely smokiness to it, and this was one of the best versions of an eggs benedict I've ever tried.
 Porky Breakfast Bowl $8.25.
Homefries, bbq pork, scrambled eggs, and farmstead cheese with an herb gravy.  This was excellent with layers of flavor.  My boyfriend felt that the addition of the tomato gravy would have made this even better. 
Rounding out our eating adventure, my boyfriend saw the nearby cafe on College Street had beignets.  Mayfel's has a funky vibe to it, and definitely worth a proper stop the next time we visit Asheville.  They were super sweet to let me place a takeout order for beignets and coffee for our roadtrip home.
$5 for 8 powder-covered beignets.

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